On January 1, the former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, published a letter addressed to Nigerian youth. In that letter, he said a number of things, one of which was that Major General Muhammadu Muhammadu Buhari’s (retired) presidency has been catastrophic.
the letter read Among others:: “The last seven and a half years have certainly been hectic and stressful years for many Nigerians. We have gone from the frying pan to the fire and from the mountaintop to the valley.
“Our leaders have done their best, but their best has turned out not to be the best for Nigeria and Nigerians at home and abroad. For most Nigerians, it was hell on earth…
“Those of us who are alive must thank God for his mercies, prepare for the remaining months of this administration, and pray and work very hard for an immediate better future: a future of deliverance, restoration, and great hope and expectation.
“Most of us in good conscience can attest to the competition when we see it anywhere. What masquerades as ‘competition’ is self-interest and nepotism”.
Obasanjo reminded the youth that next month’s general elections are another chance for them to take back their country and their future from those who have oppressed them. He said the following:
“We have a unique opportunity to correct ourselves for our own good. Those who preach division, segregation, separation and want to use diversity for their own selfish self-interest are enemies of the nation, no matter what else they may disguisely profess or proclaim…
“Let me say it again, loud and clear, Nigeria has nothing to do with insecurity, poverty, insurgency, banditry, unemployment, hunger, debt, division and disunity. We are in these situations because, consciously or unconsciously, our leaders have made the decisions. They have done the best they could do. That they rest deservedly or not and that they enjoy their retirement as septuagenarians or older”.
Obasanjo went ahead in the last part of that letter to endorse the Labor Party’s presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, as the candidate with the best qualities to change Nigeria. Unsurprisingly, that drew criticism from other presidential candidates.
Although nothing Obasanjo said in the letter about the Buhari regime is different from the current situation in Nigeria, his endorsement of Obi overshadowed his assessment of the Buhari regime. Interestingly, in 2015, Obasanjo was among those who supported Buhari to become president. Obasanjo had three key reasons for that. The first was that justice demanded that after Dr. Goodluck Jonathan completed the term of Alhaji Umaru Yar’Adua and after having a full term of his own, he should step down from power to return to the North to which the deceased belonged. Yar’Adua. Obasanjo’s second reason was that given Buhari’s military background, he would better handle insecurity in the country. And the third reason was that Buhari, with his famously ascetic lifestyle, would be more disciplined in managing the country’s resources and more steadfast in fighting corruption.
Many believe that on all of those fronts, Buhari has not lived up to expectations. However, Buhari disagrees. He and his aides believe it is the best thing that has happened to Nigeria in terms of leadership. In his response to Obasanjo’s New Year’s letter, Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media and Publicity), Mr. Garba Shehu, said that Obasanjo’s criticism was born out of jealousy.
He stated: “(Obasanjo) will not stop attacking Buhari because the former president will not stop being jealous of anyone who surpasses him in a new record in the process of developing the nation.
“Buhari is ahead of Chief Obasanjo in all fields of national development and to do so is a cardinal sin for Obasanjo, whose hallucinations tell him that he is the best Nigeria has ever led and there will never be another better than him.”
That sounds similar to what the president’s special adviser on media and publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said about Buhari in October 2021. He said that no Nigerian, living or dead, “has the kind of attraction, magnetic attraction, that Buhari has. .” In December, while in Kogi state, Buhari declared that the All Progressives Congress under his leadership had fulfilled all election promises made to Nigerians at all levels.
The problem with this recurring narrative of the presidency is that it is an example of one who takes a test, scores himself, and announces the result. Buhari and members of his ruling APC use some of the projects he has run to assess it. But every administration executes projects. Ironically, the projects carried out by Buhari came at a huge cost to Nigeria. Last week, the Debt Management Office revealed that Buhari will leave behind a debt of N77tn. If that is divided by the estimated population of Nigeria, it means that Buhari will leave each Nigerian with around N350,000 in debt.
The economy has also fared poorly under Buhari, with the most depreciated naira in history trading for more than 700 to a dollar. At the end of last year, the National Statistics Office reported that 63 percent of Nigerians were multidimensionally poor. Furthermore, under Buhari, insecurity reached its highest level, permeating all six areas of the country.
Based on measurable metrics and indices, no independent analyst would compare Buhari to Obasanjo in leadership. The ratings weigh heavily against Buhari. In the areas of conducting elections and respecting court rulings, Obasanjo performed poorly. But on the economy, no president has performed better than Obasanjo since the Fourth Republic began in 1999, and no president has been more detribalistic and fairer to all parts of Nigeria than Obasanjo.
Obasanjo became president in 1999 when Nigeria was a pariah state and the price of oil was selling for less than $20. He was able to revive the Nigerian economy that had been in a nosedive since the military, led by Buhari, seized power in 1983. Under Obasanjo, the middle class, which all but disappeared under military rule, reappeared. Nigerians, who had been buying cars, clothes, shoes, refrigerators, televisions, etc. second-hand, they began to buy new ones. Under him, the economy grew rapidly and consistently, with no year performing less than five percent. In 2002, the economy even grew at a whopping 15.33 percent. Although he inherited huge debts, he got the Paris Club to cancel Nigeria’s debt in 2006 by paying $12 billion. Furthermore, Obasanjo grew Nigeria’s foreign reserve more than any other administration in this Fourth Republic.
The reason why Obasanjo managed to turn the economy around was that he sought out the best hands in all parts of Nigeria, unlike Buhari, who has been heavily criticized for displaying ethnic and religious nepotism in his appointments and projects. It was under Obasanjo that Nigerians first heard about professionals like Prof. Dora Akunyili, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, Prof. Charles Soludo, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, etc. ., who excelled in their fields.
The good book says that “the good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” Unfortunately, Buhari will leave a mountain of debt and problems for Nigerians.
However, Buhari has one area where he can excel and beat Obasanjo’s record. That area is in holding free, fair and transparent elections this year. If he succeeds in doing that, then it will be his redeeming grace that he will be graciously remembered for for years to come. Buhari has repeatedly promised to ensure this is achieved under his leadership. The ball is in his court to fulfill it in the elections scheduled for February and March.
– Twitter: @BrandAzuka